Provisioning

verb
gerund or present participle: provisioning
– to supply with food, drink, or equipment, especially for a journey

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 I had done my part in provisioning for our trip. I started with an internet search specifically for lists and recipes that would be easy to prepare on a sailboat (rocking to and fro, limited space, only so much propane to cook with…etc). I was happy to find many resources. Using many ideas from seasoned cruisers, I then decided to add some simplicity and creativity to the menu with some original recipes and menu items. I created two spreadsheets from many lists ….one for the menu, the other for ALL the ingredients. It was quite extensive, but necessary. On our previous trip down the coast of Florida, we had left a bit of coffee and probably salt and pepper aboard..that’s all!  So that meant we needed EVERYTHING.

Actually, I never thought I would get so detailed about food , but it happened. Because, when you need curry for the chicken recipe, or soy sauce, sushi rice or nori for the (hopeful) sushi, you can’t just drop by the market to fulfill your needs, we needed it aboard or we go without. I also included on the menu a few things that we would prepare at home, freeze and have available for easy meal preparation underway. These included a marinated chicken, smoked ribs, and grilled turkey that  all turned out to be perfectly simple and great tasting. We also had world famous Magnine spaghetti and meatballs as well as good ole standby breakfast quiche.  To make things easier, we were loaned the most awesome Fissler Vitaquick pressure skillet from our good friends. We found that to be invaluable in quick preparation of meals and side dishes. It dropped the cooking time in half and the utilization of propane on the boat much less. we provisioned for snacks and of course libations. Mike and I did succumb to box wine testing before our travels. we decided ahead of time that taking several bottles of wine aboard might be weighty as well as cumbersome. We found that the Black Box brand to have the fullest and best tastes for our palette.  Another consideration was for fresh drinking water. Needless to say, that is essential for morning coffee and staying hydrated while cruising.

 

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We thought we might have time during the trip to enjoy a few Bahamian restaurants along the way, but I couldn’t rely on that so I figured a few extra meals (just in case). I had also added ingredients and supplies to fry fish, grill fish, and even have sushi.  Fingers crossed that we ate more of that than anything else!!!  So, I spent hours adding and subtracting to the shopping and home preparation lists. Most of our shopping was done on our earlier trip in March, but for some of the freshest provisions we had to procure the last days ashore.

I may have mentioned in previous posts that we spent the better part of the last three days in Stuart before crossing the Gulf Stream, provisioning not only food but other supplies that we would need in the event of equipment failure (extra beer and tonic to mix with the spirits aboard..)  We had rented a car for just over 24 hours to complete the task.We did some exploring as well, to distract ourselves from the delay. We actually headed out to the ocean to see what the waves looked like. This confirmed our plan to wait for easterly winds.

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One morning on our way to Jensen Beach, we surreptitiously passed the most beautiful early-morning farmers market. We bought beautiful fresh peaches, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet onions, and deciding we needed more flavor, a basil plant (which we kept on board the entire trip and managed to return with back to the states!)

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By this time, we suspected we had enough food should we get stranded in the Bahamas and be unable to return somehow…..wishful thinking. Upon our return to the boat, it was actually the storage of said provisions that was challenging. We clearly had to figure out how to store the fresh fruit and vegetables, as refrigerator space was limited. The answer of course prompted another brief trip to Home Goods for baskets.

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I wasn’t the only one provisioning, as the experienced fisherman, Mike was readying himself for a vacation near water, and he made sure that our equipment list included most everything for catching fish. Considering that his life experience was freshwater fishing, Mike spent long winter days and evenings reading about and watching the Youtube videos on catching and spearing saltwater fish.  He procured the best spearfishing gun (KOAH) along with fishing reels appropriate for the saltwater. He even designed and constructed his own fish cleaning table that would sit at the stern for filleting fish. We were not going hungry!

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Day 4, Powell Cay anchorage…….. the decision is made to find a reef to spearfish. The dinghy is launched, spearfishing and snorkeling equipment are ready and we are off across the bay and narrow passage  to the ocean side of the island. I get assigned  dinghy driver as the guys fished. I monitor the progress, up for air, gestures, dive,fins in the air…. down for the fish, up with laughs and more gestures…….As the story goes……Spotting a hogfish Mike took a breath, following the fish, and then careful aim… a shot and was surprised that the fish swam away. He was sure he made a hit, right in the “head”. Quickly to the surface for a breath and he was back to collect his weapon, only to see that the safety tip was floating to the surface above the spear….rookie mistake. Mike -0, Fish -1 , leaving with his life and a headache.

Making a comeback the next day, the fishermen were very successful mid Gulf Stream in bringing in a few Mahi. We did enjoy a wonderful meal of sushi and fried Mahi that night!

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Gulf Stream Mahi

We made other great meals on board. Everyone shared in the cooking activities, which also promotes the sense of “family” on board. We would all agree that our favorite  days  were when we made fresh bread. It must be the  caribbean heat and humidity that seems to create the best bread.  We found that fresh baked bread with a bit of wine and cheese at captain’s hour and of course the perfect sunset….is  priceless.

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I have to say that growing up camping has made me a better sailor. I have a fairly good sense of managing  in close quarters (or over an open fire) as well as cooking in the outdoors.( I am just thankful that I am not waking up on a soggy tent floor.)  Cooking on a boat is very much like camp cooking, without the camp fire (of course, I hope)….you learn  to prepare food simply, enjoy the friends that have joined you, and share in the great travel experience.

The Anchorage

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We had travelled 80 miles in about 16 hours across the Atlantic Gulf Stream when we finally reached the Shallows of the Little Bahama Bank. If I were walking,  it would be at 5 mph, a good pace. But I’m not and we had motored at the best speed possible for the 54 hp Yanmar and the weight of Lost Loon. (Mike would say too many canned goods! We will never eat all that.). Our first days journey takes us into opposing East winds and Northeast winds of 12-17 kt.  We carry on and look forward to days end and rest. We had spent endless hours planning our crossing and where we would make landfall. Would we need to make a short trip to West End or could we manage to make it to Great Sale Cay? Into that calculation, we had to figure in our stamina, how far we would be able to manage in 24 hours, with fatigue combined with the excitement of new travel.
The previous night, we had decided to anchor at Lake Worth, Pal Beach FL briefly to rest, before our 18 hour cruise. We had just come 8 hours (motoring) down the ICW from Stuart FL to reach our staging grounds for the “jump off ” into the Gulf Stream .   We made a simple dinner, cleaned up, and napped for about an hour or so before we were both ready to go. (I don’t think either of us slept…adrenaline was on the rise.)  We spent an hour getting Lost Loon ready to take us across the Gulf Stream. This detail had us readying lifelines, checking lights, double checking our rigging, reviewing our routing, and of course preparing coffee.  By this time it is dark. We have just anchored her for the first time successfully and now we need to retrieve the anchor in the dark. We managed to pull up much of the mud bottom, but we were on our way.

 

We had all our safety systems in place. Within 5 minutes,  as we round the corner to open ocean we were confused by the number of red markers(or lights). We had made a dry run to the inlet earlier that afternoon and made note of the markers, so when we made the night approach we were familiar. Well, one seemed to be moving toward us…..it was the Coast Guard. Now, this had been a concern of mine. So I had documentation papers, Canadian deletion papers, we had forgotten our documentation sign at home, so we wrote our vessel number on the fiberglass in Sharpie ( would that pass?). We had our flares, whistle, horn, life jackets, fire extinguishers in place, waste disposal signage ( in a binder) and passports ( and birth certificates….got documentation?). We were both thinking..were they really going to stop us?  in the dark?  and delay our time getting out to the ocean? Upon close approach, they inquired of our intended destination, where we had come from that day, and number of passengers aboard. They even asked if we had ever been boarded before. In all honestly, we of course said NO…. with trepidation …..thinking that maybe saying yes they would let us pass? ( like the scene from Wizard of Oz). We wait as the second officer communicates to Oz at the helm……he turns back (our hearts pounding and ready for a boarding) and tells us to have a safe trip. Really? No boarding? we can go? To the Bahamas?? Yes !!!!… We are gracious , beyond belief, and expressed our thanks, they turn off.

Lucky. We laugh, look at each other, smile,  and in Family Feud fashion say “good answer”.
We motor cautiously out the Lake Worth inlet, still not sure what we will find 10 miles out at the Western edge of the Gulf Stream. We leave with the thought that what we see at the coast could drastically change once on the Stream. Goodness it is our first crossing alone. But we do have the knowledge and spirit of all of the good sailing friends and instructors we have had the good fortune to sail with and learn from.   About 2 hours later we find 7-8 ft swells left over from the giant low pressure that is now moving north into the Atlantic. The winds as predicted are 12-17. We do have some confused swells and waves for a bit, until we reach the middle of the Stream. By 0200 we can feel things settle and no longer have the enormous swells that seem to hit at the same time as a wave, sending the boat heeling to port briefly. The items in the storage bins and cabinets have also found rest. At one point while off watch, trying to sleep I had felt As if I were placed inside a pinball game with tings and clunks going off all around me.
Daybreak brings us closer to our first anchorage. We have managed to trade out the night with short rest periods and are quickly re-energized by the rising sun, fresh coffee, and warmth of the day.

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How to pick an anchorage? We know most anchorages are pretty secluded.We have perused the Navionics charts and read the guide books on what to watch for and where to set anchor.  We desire seclusion and privacy, along with a bath, shower or swim. Great Sale ( yes, as in yard and garage) Cay is just that, but a few fellow cruisers seem to also arrive as the afternoon went on.

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A word about anchorages. We prefer one that seems to blunt the direction of prevailing wind so as not to have such a rolly night. This means that if we can find a piece of land that breaks the waves from the direction of the wind the boat sits calmly through the night. Weather is also monitored for changing winds. We make sure that if we set the hook (anchor) with a west wind, we are set well enough that if the wind switches southwest we we won’t move , or most worrisome lose anchor and drift. We are pretty sure that during the  night there will be a calm east wind that will persist through the night. With yours truly at the bow and Mike at the helm (we make it look easy) and set anchor easily for the second time. After we  check the hold we can finally turn off the engine for the first time in about 24 hours.
Needless to say as soon as the engine was off I was preparing for sweet submersion. Towel, soap and shampoo… Oooooh what?  It’s not bath water temp?  The water was initially a bit chilly, but nonetheless satisfying and refreshing all around. Finally, in the choice of anchorages one must highly consider the direction of the setting sun, ours was perfect that night.

It’s finally Captains hour, with a glass of wine we relax and reflect …..WE ARE IN FOREIGN WATERS ! We did it! ..Day one is a wrap. Pretty much a first for us, Lost Loon has some smugness though, she’s been there, done that a few times….we sleep easy this night. Our travels continue in the morning, we have a few more days of full day sailing ahead to arrive at our destination where we pick up friends.

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the thing you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

 

Open Oceans and Weather To Go

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You either like the open ocean or you don’t. I’m in love with it. Writing this as we cross Little Bahama Bank for Great Sale Cay (p. “key”) ( April 20).  We just completed our first overnight crossing the Gulf Stream ( I think that definitely deserves capital letters!). WE did it…alone… together!  It is hard to describe what its like… Solitude? Freedom? Beauty? It is one mysterious, captivating, powerful body of water. Sailors plan for days waiting, as we did, for the winds to be “just right”. A northerly wind of any kind irritates and aggravates the Gulf Stream. She raises her waves and swells in protest. And so, makes it difficult for travelers by boat to cross to other oceans or ports and in particular the Bahamas. But given a gentle East or South breeze and she is a happy as sheets drying on a line. That is what we wait for.
After watching the weather maps, computer wind and wave models, and having a detailed discussion with weather router, Chris Parker, we made the decision leave on a Tuesday night (our Northerly wind was switching to Easterly). Pretty simple, and reassuring.
Cruising travelers spend enormous amounts of money on monitoring equipment, apps, and subscriptions to weather forecasting services, as they should, to get the best guess on what the winds, waves, and weather will be for a passage thru a particular ocean or coastal region. As newbie cruisers, we read about all the well known forecasters and I guess wondered if we would ever get to the place where we needed their service. Why? Well we bought a boat that was already equipped with an ICOM 706 amateur radio, automatic antennae tuner and Pactor modem. What this means is that we can listen around the world to weather broadcasts, or even “hook-up” the laptop and get email or weather fax ! Well, that’s all good until you realize that you need the General Ham license ( which requires passing a test. So, ok I’ve studied for some pretty tough exams in my life but this stuff takes the cake unless your an electrical engineer. Passing the exam, I’m now known as maritime mobile KD9FQW. Feeling pretty good, thinking all I had to do was turn the dial and call my sign and I’m talking and listening to the world. How different could it be from tuning in a great AM station on the radio? I was wrong. I won’t bore you with details about radio wave propagation into the ionosphere, but it can be darn difficult at times. The great thing I found out this week is that if you are licensed amateur operator having difficulty trying to reach your uncle in Kentucky, so that he can communicate to family in Minnesota and North Carolina that you are safe, there are the kindest people that are ready relay your message. Thanks to you all!
We could have bought a satellite phone or marine SSB, which may have been easier to use, and we eventually may, but right now we are not headed off to the Pacific on some 3 week passage….in time.

Back to weather.

Right now the Sun has been up for a few hours, there are high cirrus clouds and the temp is 76, winds 12 from the East, the direction to our next waypoint. We are not sailing but motoring. If we were out for a day sail or didn’t have a Diesel engine, we might decide to raise the sails and do some tacking to get there at the expense of time. We anticipate good weather for the rest of the trip as we have a mostly high pressure settling into the Bahamas region. It is times like this that you realize you are very dependent on which way the wind blows. Back home we comment about the direction of the wind, we complain about the rain or snow, but we are able to navigate to work and play without much other consideration.
The water surrounding Lost Loon has turned a beautiful turquoise. We have gone from well over 2000 ft of water to 15.

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Bahama Blue

Our keel (the big piece of lead weight that keeps us from tipping over ) sits 5 feet below us . So, you can do the math and see that we don’t have much room for things sticking up off the ocean floor. So we keep watch. At night this watch is for ocean traffic and during the day obstructions and ships.

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The routine is about every 2-3 hours, sleep -watch-sleep- watch. This also entails managing the autopilot , steering to course, and watching depth.  You would think with thousands of miles of open ocean you would only expect to see a few boats. Last night’s crossing the Gulf Stream was like Grand Central Station at quitting time. At one point we had 4 boats on radar, all over 10 football fields in length, within 15 miles. Our closest approach was the Norwegian Getaway at 1 mile. At one point, we were headed for a 300 ft CPA , (closest point of approach- that is near collision in lay terms). I called on the VHF and thanked the captain of that very large and ominous passenger ship, headed for Nassau, for changing his course and speed so we didn’t collide. ( He did because we did not have the capability to increase our speed any further).  He did reply back to my contact . I think he said ” no problem” (possibly being cordial).  I’m certain he gets tired of 40 ft sailboats meandering their way at 3 AM across his path. The world goes around, and next time my schedule is off because of an unexpected event,  I’ll remember the captain of the Norwegian Getaway.

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Happiness ….

 

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April 2016

Happiness comes from within.
I like that. We create our own joy in life. That is our intention with this new venture.
We have been blessed. We grew up in the Midwest with values to work hard and enjoy life. We hope to have instilled that in our children. They question our fairly recent decision to “sell the farm” and go sailing. For now we will do this part time and then more long term when the time is right.
I write this at 35,000 ft, traveling to Lost Loon in Stuart FL. Our boat has been waiting for us to return and sail her on our first crossing to the Bahamas.
IN THE BEGINNING
It started with the lessons. We decided (with the help of a very close friend) that it would be fun to learn to sail so we could charter a sailboat on vacation in primarily the Virgin Islands. What did we really know about sailing? Not much. The wind blows it moves the boat. The wind stops….uh oh then what? We had vacationed on lakes and rivers most of our life. We both grew up with fathers that treasured fishing. Bass fishing, walleye fishing, the occasional northern or sunny we what we learned to catch. We have enjoyed the Midwest for the Great Lakes and all the thousands of small lakes in between. We live in northern Wisconsin and deciding that the fishing was much better further north and bought a small cabin on Lake Vermilion MN. A beautiful spot to relax and, of course,  fish or hike during the 3 or 4 months the lake isn’t frozen.

D5BF7D07-EBE8-4C3F-AD39-A9E08491065C  We have had a small Sunfish sailboat there for years, a gift from an uncle that enjoys the water and sailing as well. We spent some endless days trying to manage the variable winds on the lake.
We invested in a tired  25 ft cabin cruiser on Lake Michigan near Chicago. We had fun on weekends cruising the lakeshore or trolling for big fish. We own canoes and a kayak. Before we married we took off into the BWCAW and Quetico Provincal Park canoeing and camping for 12 days  (That’s another story. )…..oh we can handle sailing ..Right? Needless to say we have water experience. So what could be so hard to learn to sail something larger than a sunfish? We found out after our coursework in keelboat , moving on to bareboat and coastal cruising. Following a sailing immersion weekend on Lake Superior out of the Apostle Islands we were totally hooked. It was fun, so we began to kick around the idea of owning a sailboat.
Fast forward to August 2008, Chicago suburbs, 85 degrees, I’m picking up a Precision 23 , sight unseen and bringing her ‘up North”.  We  had searched locally but found this great trailer sailing vessel 6 hours from home. We didn’t exactly buy the boat sight unseen, but had out daughter ( who knew nothing about sailboats) go look at her. We had 3 basic requirements no holes, no standing water inside, and an intact mast. Ok, we’re good. Heck, she even had a roller furler jib! We had educated ourselves on the Jim Taylor designed sailboat , reviewed the articles on how to buy a boat and within a week agreed on a price. Sanity was her name. I’ll leave that be. The boat had been sitting on a trailer in the suburbs just waiting for some interested soul to take her to water. It was in good shape , no holes. Her sails were older, but no tears. The cabin wasn’t as odorous as I expected, remembering the days of opening up a camper that had been put away after a rainy camping weekend. The previous owner helped me change the jib halyard. We repacked the cabin with all 10 thousand life jackets and headed to her new home.
This was a solo trip for me, Mike was on his annual Musky fishing weekend on Lake Vermilion. On the drive back, I would look in the rearview Saying ‘ oh my what have we done’. Arrival time home 1 am. Here’s the rub. We had less than 7 days to clean and prep Sanity for our voyage to the Apostle Islands.
I’ll spare details but as you can imagine we spent the hours we were not sleeping or working , on cleaning the exterior ( power washer was a savior as well as a son at home between jobs), repairing a damaged bulkhead, organizing what are now known in our household as lines ( not ropes), adding new depth / speed indicator, and arranging our inheritance of life jackets. At the last minute, we needed to make sure our outboard runs, major detail. We were so lucky. It only took a new spark plug a few pulls and she was running well. In all, we gave her a bit of love and we anticipated she return that in graceful response to the wind.

We launched her onto Lake Superior in Chevy Chase Family Vacation style ( driving around the casino parking lot to find the right wind direction from which to raise the mast). Our dream come true…. to anchor off Madeline Island on a summer night.

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Sailing Sanity on Lake Vermilion

The end of the week after practicing our tactics and getting a feel for Sanity’s tenderness we headed her to Lake Vermilion for the rest of the summer. Year one a success. Only one disappointment, winter, waiting for the days to lengthen and most importantly the ice to melt. We have repeated this cycle for 4 years. With a few BVI charter trips in the winter to escape the harsh Wisconsin temperatures under our belt and a bucket load of sailing journals we convinced ourselves to explore the idea of ocean sailing.
BUYING “THE ” BOAT
So how difficult can that be? Ok, what are the requirements for an ocean cruising sailboat? What do we know about marine systems? Diesel engines? Wind and solar energy? Fresh water systems? Fuel polishing systems? How many sails do we need, really? After a full year of perusing all the online listings, seminars at Strictly Sail Show in Chicago, and visiting boats from Texas to Florida along with a few on Lake Michigan (mid -winter) we found a Caliber 40 on it’s journey back from Grenada.

We enlisted the help of a Caliber broker and began our intensive on Caliber and cruising sailboats. Our first view of her was during a downpour in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, VI during a catamaran vacation with friends. That was serendipity. That was February. Fast forward through countless hours reading and reviewing the pros and cons of the different cruising sailboats, lists upon lists of what we wanted in a sailboat …we had finally made the decision. It seemed quite easy…. this Caliber had most of what we had on our “would like” as well as “would need” lists. We had a signed agreement  by May 25. Sea Kite was ours. Not long after the papers were signed we were enlightened as to all the tax, documentation, and insurance work we needed to get done…Bliss lasted temporarily.

 

FIRST SAIL
According to our insurance we needed to get Sea Kite above latitude 31 before hurricane season.  We found a great location at Brunswick Landing, Brunswick GA. We made our first voyage up the ICW from Cape Canaveral to New Smyrna. We picked up some trusty sailing friends and made a coastal voyage to her new home in Georgia. Carefully, but hastily we closed her up for the Summer months, trying to follow the previous owners directions in French as to what needed to be removed, closed and covered. How difficult that was to leave her and return to Wisconsin.

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THIS IS NOW
We have made a couple of trips to visit the Caliber getting to know systems and making her ours. We made a trip to measure and take supplies as well as change the name. She was Sea Kite and had given her Canadian owners 10 yrs of pleasure, but to make her ours we needed a fitting name. Loons live in the North during temperate time of year. They are an interesting waterbird that has a distinctive call. They can be heard on the lakes and rivers calling to their mates in the evening. Protective of their few offspring, they carry their newborns on their backs for safety from the perils of large predator fish lurking under the water. They are seen diving for their food. One will see a loon on the surface, dive for nourishment and come up several yards away, surprising the the observer. They travel south in the winter and have been seen as far as south Florida and southern California . Mike came up with the appropriate name for the boat. Lost Loon. It is fitting.

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The move from Brunswick to Stuart took place last month (March 2016). We needed to break up the Bahamas trip into manageable pieces since we are still employed. If this were a wedding, we’d be heading to the church! We have arranged most of the provisioning and supplies on our trip down last month. We literally looked like the Clampits leaving Wisconsin headed for Georgia with food, fishing supplies, diving equipment, and more.  We worked several hours packing the boat with the supplies, using every nook and cranny.

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It was like that game we played where the object to move the numbered squares to get them in order, but you end up moving 3 squares (in our case rubbermaid boxes of like supplies and replacements) to to fit one odd piece of equipment. Their had to be a logical thought process of how to fit it all in AND remember where it was put!

We check all systems: fuel, water, bilge, electrical ,running rigging and finally standing rigging. That was Mike’s job. He can climb the mast at 60ft. I have problems hanging out of the second story washing windows. I stayed on deck with the halyard and winched him up, up, up.

Finally ‘ready’ . Time to move by day 3, after trips to Wal Mart, Home Depot and of course West Marine to outfit the ship. We refueled and were ready to go for offshore the next morning.

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Our sail from GA to southern FL was a bit rough. We took 15-25 knot winds on the nose, so 50 hours of motoring all of the way. It was surreal at times. The night watches were short for the two of us now alone on the ocean. There was a sense that Lost Loon knew what to do if we gave her some direction.  No more tender Sanity, we had multiple options for dealing with the wind  now.

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Temporary home..Loggerhead Marina, Stuart FL

ANTICIPATION AND PATIENCE
What is it about preparing and planning for a trip that is so fun? It can be hectic and exhausting, but in all, waiting for the adventure can be very…. Exciting!!  We have been doing that for months. This is now the true test. Crossing the Gulf Stream as a capable couple of sailors who know their boat. But we wait. There is no reason to head into the Gulf Stream with any component of a north wind. For my friends who don’t sail, that is what makes high waves and a very rocky ride into the night. So the forecast says in 3 days we can leave.
Until then, we continue to reorganize and tinker. That is, we inspect stuff and fix it, if it doesn’t work right or “McGyver-it ” so it does. I want a t-shirt that says ” I’m done fixing stuff, I’m going sailing”.

(Yeah, my first post!!!! It only took me 4 hours. I am hoping this goes faster. Please return daily to check for posts on our continued first Bahamas adventure!)

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the thing you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Mark Twain